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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  September 17, 2012 2:00am-3:00am EDT

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>> host: when we talk about the founding fathers, what's the events we're talking about? >> guest: we're talking about the american revolution and the writing of the constitution, and
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those are the two key events, and everybody who played a major role in those events can claim to be a founding father. obviously the older ones had careers before the american revolution, the younger ones hat careers that went on quite a few years after the signing of the constitution. >> host: who were the older ones and younger ones. >> guest: benjamin franklin, the oldest, born in 1706. he knows cotton mather and the died in 1790. he signs both the declaration of independence and the constitution. the last to die was james madison. he is born in 1751, and then he do is in 1836. 85 years old. so, he has seen the fight over missouri being admitted to the union. he sees nullification crisis but
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he is the last one. aaron byrd. but that's the other side. the dark side. >> host: in 2006, you wrote wow what would the founders do," wwfd, and in that book you write: the founders invite our questions now because they invited discussion when they lived. they were dry in public speeches and in journalism. >> guest: that's right. they set up a republic and they're very proud of doing that, and this is unique -- virtually unique in the world. there were -- holland had been kind of a republic but that was going down the tubes so this was a unique form of government, and compared to all the competitors,
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month no, okays and whatnot, it's open. it's based on popular rule and, yes, of course, the franchise was restricted but still there is a franchise. so, voters, the electorate, has to be appealed to, has to be brought long and instructed, and they do this constantly. a lot of them are journalists. they write for the newspapers. some of them are professional journalists, alexander hamilton founds a newspaper that is still going on, the new york post. he founded it. was the first publisher. benjamin franklin was a great publisher, sam adam was a publisher. it's hard to think of founders who didn't write journalism. george washington didn't. but that is very rare. even someone like james madison who didn't like or was great at
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it, he screwed himself up and wrote 29 federalist papers which were op-ed pieces in newspapers. so these guys, these men, know that they have to put themselves out there for the american public, which is their con constitute tune si. >> host: no it alls. >> guest: well, know it alls. they were well educated. it's a little country. the colleges we have -- he have a handful of colleges. they're tiny. harvard or kings college, which becomes columbia, or yale or princeton, they have a few dozen students. unlike the thousands that they have today. but most of these men were college graduates. those who weren't made sure they read all their lives.
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they felt they had to be up on both the news of the day and the political theory of the day. they all knew their -- if you listen to their debates you would have thought that moscue the celebrate. and the knew their english history, their recent english history and they're ancient history. the history of the classical world. the history of rome and greece. the didn't always admire what they read. in hamilton and the federalist papers he says the history of the little greek city states is disgusting because they all -- they go through cycles of tyranny and chaos and whatnot and that's what he hopes america can avoid. but that's a negative example. so you have to know the negative examples as well.
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>> host: you say -- tell me if i'm paraphrasing this wong -- our founding fathers were less well-traveled, perhaps even less sophisticated, than high school seniors today or veterans from iraq and afghanistan. >> guest: well, sure. it's harder to get around the world. and a crossing of the atlantic ocean takes 20 davis -- days if you're lucky. it can take 80 days of you fall in iceberg and storms. john adams crosses the atlantic and the ship is struck by lightning and everybody has to pump until they make landful. the passengers have to take turns because the ship is filling with heart. so it is hard, it is hard to get around. it's hard to get around the united states. to go from new york city to
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albany, new york, if you took a hours, that would take you three days, on our own horse or a coach. if you took a boat up the hudson, that would take three days if the wind was right. if the wind was bad it could take you a couple -- ten days to get from new york city to albany. and now on a train it's like, what, few hours. so, yes, there are restrictions that come from not being able to get around. but the flip


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